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Financial Wellbeing: A Survey Of Adults In Australia

Evidence type: Insight i

Context:

The concept of financial wellbeing has gained prominence in research and policy over the last few years. The term is seen as intuitive and understandable to the general population as well as researchers and policymakers. Other terms that are often used interchangeably include financial wellness and financial health. However, financial wellbeing explicitly recognises that finances are related to people’s overall wellbeing, disavowing the notion that finances are a separate entity to other aspects of day-to-day wellbeing. Financial wellbeing combines concepts related to the fields of personal finance and the broader area of personal wellbeing. Financial wellbeing is also starting to be recognised as increasingly important in industry, with employers aware of the reduction in productivity that can be the result of financial stress and uncertainty. Over the past few years, numerous financial wellbeing indices have been devised, often including aspects of employment, as well as housing, income, education, health, and happiness.

The study:

The research in this 2018 report from ANZ Banking Group was conducted in Australia as both an online and a telephone survey.

Online survey

The 30-minute online survey was conducted among a nationally representative sample of Australian adults, aged 18+. In total, 3,578 valid responses were received. Surveys were conducted across Australia, with quotas set for age, gender and location. The data was also post-weighted to ensure that the results were as representative as possible. The fieldwork took place in November and December 2017.

CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interview)

The online survey took about eight minutes to complete. There were 1,000 valid responses from adults aged 18+. The final dataset was weighted by age, gender and location using the latest population estimates. The fieldwork took place in December 2017.

A wellbeing score was created based on an aggregate of the survey questions. The final score was a composite of standardised scores, with the results being reported on a scale of 0-100.

An identical survey was also conducted in New Zealand, with the results available in a sister report.

Key findings:

  • The overall financial wellbeing score was 59 out of 100, indicating a reasonable level of financial wellbeing among Australian adults (the headline result was identical in New Zealand).

Four categories of relative financial wellbeing were identified:

  1. No worries: Almost a quarter (24%) of respondents had no real financial worries. Their financial wellbeing score was higher that 80 out of 100.
  2. Doing OK: Two-in-five (40%) sat in the middle range, with 39% of this group describing their current financial situation as ‘fair’ or ‘good’. Overall financial wellbeing scores ranged from 51 to 80.
  3. Getting by: Just under a quarter of the respondents (23%) were just getting by. Over a third (35%) of this group described their financial situation as ‘bad’. Financial behaviour scores were below average in this group. Overall, they had financial wellbeing scores ranging from 31 to 50 out of 100.
  4. Struggling: One-in-eight respondents (13%) appeared to be struggling. Most of this group (85%) described their financial situation as ‘bad’, with 81% having no savings and 75% finding it a constant struggle to meet bills and other financial commitments. Only 7% felt confident about their financial situation over the next year. This group had financial wellbeing scores of less than 30.
  5. The report suggested that two specific behaviours – active saving and not borrowing for everyday expenses – were key to financial wellbeing. The research showed that the two behaviours contributed 19% and 16% respectively to explaining the differences in people’s overall levels of financial wellbeing.
  6. Socio-economic factors also played an important role, contributing 30% to explaining differences in determining financial wellbeing.
  7. Having less than $1,000AUS in savings was strongly associated with low levels of financial wellbeing, while people who owned their own homes had greater financial wellbeing.
  8. People who had significant variation from month to month in their household income recorded financial wellbeing scores 17 points below the national average of 59.
  9. Psychological factors had an influence on financial wellbeing, particularly people’s self-confidence in their money management skills.
  10. Detailed knowledge and experience of financial products or services only had a limited impact on financial wellbeing.

Points to consider:

Methodological strengths and limitations:

  • The report is designed and weighted to be nationally representative of Australia.

Relevance:

  • This report is relevant to anyone with an interest in researching the drivers of financial wellbeing, and in particular to those whose research or planned financial wellbeing interventions relate to Oceania.

Generalisability/ transferability:

  • This research is based on Australia and as such the findings are not directly transferable to a UK context. However, some of the data collection processes, survey methodology and overall findings may be of interest to UK researchers.

Key info

Year of publication
2019
Country/Countries
Australia
Contact information

ANZ Banking GroupProfessor Elaine Kempson, Personal Finance Research Centre e.kempson@bristol.ac.uk